Cheesemas at Byron Northbridge*

Ok, if you’re in Edinburgh tonight, you have to drop every plan you’ve made, and get yourself over to Byron on North Bridge. Not only is it the best burger spot in town, but to celebrate Cheesemas (the most wonderful of holidays) there are 200 hundred free burgers, as well as free Brewdog beer for everyone!

I popped into the North Bridge restaurant last night to see what all the fuss was about, and honestly, the Cheesemas burger isn’t one you want to miss! Two beef patties are piled high, and draped with melted Cheddar cheese, crowned with an onion ring, and smothered in bacon island sauce. It’s ridiculously good. We went for the Cheesemas along with Cheese Fries (delicious) and two Bourbon Vanilla milkshakes. It was an absolutely delicious mid-week treat, and honestly, we’re both still full from indulging!

Cheesemas starts at 6pm – see you there?

Charbonnel et Walker Pink Champagne Truffle Mini Cracker*

I feel like everyone is really in the Christmas spirit this year, and I’m pretty sure it’s because 2016 has been a bit of a tough one. I’ve been loving all the fun little extra touches and flourishes around the house, and one of the most stylish has to be these Charbonnel et Walker Pink Champagne truffle crackers.

Packaged in the brand’s harlequin print, I love hiding these in the tree for inquisitive guests to stumble across. Tucked inside each cracker are three of Charbonnel’s heavenly pink champagne truffles, which are the most indulgent little bites. Equal parts creamy chocolate with a bite of alcoholic champers, I love one served alongside a strong espresso.

Charbonnel et Walker Pink Champagne truffle crackers are priced at £5.50 each and are available here.

Brunch at Montpeliers, Edinburgh*

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Sunday always seems to be the perfect day for brunch. Late and slightly lazy mornings feel like such a treat, especially when you’re up as early as I am every day! So, I absolutely jumped at the chance to sample Montpelier’s brunch menu.

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They’ve just been named as the best brunch in Edinburgh by ion magazine, so, as you can imagine, I went with high expectations! Situated in Bruntsfield, we parked the car nearby, and when we got in, we were met with possibly the cutest Christmas decorating in the whole of Edinburgh. Everywhere you looked there were fluffy little owls perched alongside teeny stockings and berries.

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We settled down to the task of ordering, we got some tea and orange juice to keep us going. The restaurant had a really wonderful atmosphere – buzzing with groups of friends, families and couples, all enjoying a bit of a morning treat. There was even the most adorable maltese sitting under a neighbouring table, which was very difficult not to offer treats to!

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Since we were in to see what was on offer, we had to order the The Full Monty (£11.95). This really is a breakfast fit for a king, and comes with a pot of tea and a glass of orange juice. If you’re after something to really set you up for the day, this is it!

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The Full Monty is literally everything you could imagine in a breakfast on one plate. Fluffy eggs, baked beans, bacon, sausage, haggis and black pudding all competed for space with a rack of fresh toast and a potato scone. Considering we had dived into Montpeliers out the rain, it was really a perfect winter warmer of a dish. I admit to nicking a bit of sausage, and it was absolutely delicious – flavourful and herby, everything was so fresh and flavourful, we were more than a little disappointed when we couldn’t quite finish it!

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When I saw I could order a stack of pancakes, complete with maple syrup and crispy bacon (£5.95) there wasn’t another choice for me. There’s something about fluffy pancakes smothered in syrup that’s just delightful, and then the addition of bacon (especially when it’s crispy) just makes it heaven.

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The stack was three pancakes high, and they were absolute perfection! With crunchy outer edges and soft, fluffy centres which just sucked up the syrup, the dish was exactly what I was after! It was such a treat to be able to sit on a weekend morning, and really enjoy breakfast. Sitting in the window of Montpeliers, we got to people watch (my favourite) and really savour the morning, soaking up all of the restaurant’s convivial atmosphere. It was such a lovely way to spend an hour or so!

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Also, I just wanted to draw attention to the amazing initiative that the restaurant is currently running. If you’re dining (or just having a drink) you can add a couple of pounds onto your bar bill, and it means that a homeless person will be able to enjoy a hot Christmas meal. If you’ve been in the city centre recently, you will have noticed how many people need our help, especially in this cold weather, so I really appreciated the gesture.

Thank you so much to Montpeliers for having us!

 

 

 

Manuka Health MGO 30*

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Now that we are squarely in winter, I’m on serious cold-prevention at the moment. Honestly, I only need to see someone sneeze before I’ve got a cold, so over the past few weeks, I’ve been introducing Manuka Health’s MGO 30 Manuka Honey Blend into my diet. Every morning, before heading to work, I’ve been adding a teaspoon of the stuff into a cup of tea which I drink before heading off. Manuka honey has been scientifically proven to boost immunity and help soothe sore throats, which is perfect for protecting against flu season.

Manuka Health Honey is priced at £13.39 and is available here

Dinner at The White Horse Duns Tew*

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When we headed down to the Cotswolds last month, I was on a bit of a mission to sample some seriously old-school English pubs and inns. Thankfully, Oxfordshire is packed full of them, and one of the best has to be The White Horse in Duns Tew.

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We headed over on a rather rainy night, dragging ourselves away from the wood burning fire at Bruern Cottages (more about that later) we were met with a picture perfect stone inn, complete with rooms to the rear.

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We parked in the on-site carpark, so entered through the back. After weaving through throngs of locals chatting away at the bar, we were shown to the dining area of the restaurant, and honestly, it couldn’t have been cosier. A couple of seriously chill dogs were scattered throughout the bar and in one half of the dining area, whilst the other side was reserved for two-legged patrons.

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The interior of The White Horse couldn’t have been nicer to spend a rainy evening in. Each table was lit with an adorable little gas light, whilst various lamps were scattered throughout. I adored the kitschy pictures on the wall and the decorated ceiling. It was the absolute definition of cosy.

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The menu changes daily to reflect what’s in season, so, as we pondered over our choices, I opted for a glass of prosecco. At £5 a glass I was seriously impressed at how delicious it was – dry and fruity, it was good enough for a second glass!

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After debating over a few options, we went for a bit of a surf’n’turf selection of starters. First up was a deconstructed prawn marie rose, featuring an entire pint of shrimp! It was a seriously generous portion to begin a meal with, but an absolutely delicious one!

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The prawns were obviously very fresh, tender and full of flavour. Paired with freshly baked sourdough toast and homemade mayonnaise, it was a fun take on a classic pub dish. Obviously the locals agreed, as I don’t think that there was a table who didn’t order them!

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I don’t  think I can see Chicken Liver Pate on a menu and not order it. My trip to the White Horse was no different! A huge slab of it was served alongside homemade sourdough toast and cornichons.

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The pate was incredibly rich and velvety smooth. Sprinkled with a touch of Maldon salt, I could have munched away on it all evening. The cornichon lent a vinegar-y twang which cut through pate wonderfully. For such a simple dish, it was perfectly balanced, and was wonderful with my glass of prosecco.

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When it came to mains, there was only one choice for me – Pork Belly with greens, turnip mask, homemade black pudding and a poached pear. The White Horse source all their meat and vegetables locally, and the pork was testament to their suppliers. Incredibly rich in flavour, with a crisp crackling it was perfectly juicy and tender.

fullsizeoutput_b81The homemade black pudding was absolute perfect, and gave the dish real depth. Contrasted with the sweetness of the turnip and pear, my meal had all the flavours of autumn, and I savoured every mouthful.

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When we saw that a 10oz Ribeye was on the menu, we couldn’t not order it! The freshness of the meat was apparent in both flavour and texture, and it was absolutely melt-in-the mouth. Served with a fresh green salad and freshly cooked fries, it was the perfect pub supper.

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The fries were an absolute revelation. Piping hot, crisp and salty, I stole my fair share of these to go with my pork!

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We couldn’t quite fit in dessert, but did grab a few coffees before venturing back out in the rain. Frothy perfection, I was absolutely obsessed with my very cool royal mug.

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Far too soon we were back out in the Oxfordshire countryside winding our way back to Bruern, full of the very best food that the Cotswolds has to offer.

You can find out more information about the White Horse Duns Tew here.

Sunday Lunch at The Fat Fox Watlington*

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When we were on the road trip last month, one of the things I really wanted to do, was to enjoy a traditional Sunday Roast. It’s something I never really get round to in everyday life, and once we hit the Cotswolds, I became pretty much obsessed with everything terribly English.

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fullsizeoutput_b73Happily we had been booked into The Fat Fox in Watlington. Not exactly in the Cotswolds proper, but somewhere between Oxford and London. It was an absolute joy to get to – driving through autumn foliage and exploring the countryside, we were absolutely famished by the time we got there.

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The inn is pretty much your perfect English pub – with nicknacks on the mantle, and mismatched chairs and tables, it’s the definition of cosy. Considering the temperatures were undergoing a bit of a drop, this was very much appreciated!

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We were settled into the dining room, and handed the daily menu. It was a Sunday, so of course, there was only one choice we could make! Whilst we pondered our choices of starter, we were handed a board with two still warm from the oven dough balls, along with salted butter. There were a delight – crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, you can imagine how quickly these disappeared!

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We started the meal with home-cured orange smoked salmon which was served alongside cucumber, radishes and homemade mayonnaise. Whenever I see salmon on a menu, I’m almost guaranteed to order it, and I’m so glad I did at The Fat Fox!

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The fish itself was absolutely delicious – rich and seriously flavourful. The use of orange rather than the usual lemon as the citrus element was such a surprise and really made a classic dish feel new. There were also orange segments nestled in between the salmon slices which exploded with flavour.

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When the main course was served, I couldn’t hide my delight. It was an absolutely picture perfect roast beef dinner. Our plates came absolutely straining under all the goodies: there were slices of still pink roast beef, the silky smooth celeriac puree and rich liver stuffing which I think I could easily live off, not to mention a crispy puff of a Yorkshire pudding and wonderfully crunchy roast potatoes.

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It was an absolute delight of a dish, and absolutely surpassed my ideas of what a traditional roast should be. The beef was perfection – the level was pink was ideal. It meant it was flavourful and melt in the mouth. It paired wonderfully with the stuffing, which was rich with the taste of chicken liver. I’m obsessed with celeriac normally, so the mash which was velvety in texture was my idea of heaven!

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As if the plates weren’t enough goodness, we were then brought a bowl with even more delicacies piled inside. The richest cauliflower cheese, crunchy red cabbage and buttery mashed turnip were all tucked inside, and it was the most delicious surprise! Paired with homemade Horseradish, I savoured every mouthful. You couldn’t imagine a better, more satisfying lunch.

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Every element of the lunch was perfectly balanced, and we positively rolled out back into the Oxford sunshine. I’ve been dreaming of the lunch ever since we left, and honestly, it’s worth the drive back down just to indulge again!

The Fat Fox Inn is in Watlington, Oxford and more info can be found here.

Le Di Vin Edinburgh*

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Last week, when it came to Friday, I was more than in the mood for something of a jaunt in Edinburgh. I had had a seriously busy week at work, and had an equally packed schedule for the weekend (more on that to come) so finding a spot which felt both a touch celebratory whilst not too manic was a bit of a task. Le Di Vin though, had come highly recommended – a former church tucked in the city’s West End, it’s one of those places I’d been meaning to pop into for years.

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The building is divided into two sections, the rather marvellous sounding Le P’tite Folie is at the front of the building. With a menu hosting all my French favourites, I’m definitely heading back to try their menu, and there is even a Christmas menu, if you’re looking for something a little celebratory!

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Le Di Vin, where we were headed, is located in what was once the heart of the church. After pushing through the double doors, you’re met with an absolutely glorious space – the bar stretched along the left hand wall, whilst the city slickers perched on stools, savouring glasses of wine. There was a buzz of chatter and we were shown up to the mezzanine where we had an absolutely perfect spot to people watch for the evening.

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To be honest, I’m not the world’s biggest wine buff. Pass me a glass of prosecco or champagne and I’m good to go, but we opted for a bottle of Gran Hacienda, a Cabernet Sauvignon absolutely perfect for sipping on a rather rainy evening! Rich, fruity and absolutely delicious, I think I might be turned!

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Of course, we couldn’t enjoy a few glasses of wine on an empty stomach, so we sat on our sofas and pondered the menu. There is a surprisingly large selection on offer, especially during the day. You can even indulge in creme brûlée or stick toffee pudding!

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We decided to go for the Medium Mixed Charcuterie platter (£16) which paired perfectly with the wine. After a few minutes, our waitress arrived with an absolutely huge platter, positively groaning under all the goodies!

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We were presented with the perfect mix of meats and cheeses from which to choose – there was even something of a garlicky terrine and cornichon on which to munch, as well as a very generous basket filled with freshly baked bread and oatcakes.

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It was such a treat just to be able to sit back, relax, sip great wine and chat, all whilst enjoying the buzz of the bar below. There was a surprising mix of people there too – a couple of students were sitting on their laptops, studying and enjoying a glass of wine (why didn’t I think of that at uni?!) whilst tables around were a mix of friends, dates and work nights out.

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Since we had to head out early the next morning, we couldn’t spend quite the whole evening in La Di Vin (despite desperately wanting to), but heading out into the darkness was made so much better when we noticed the fairy lights which sparkled in the darkness. It was a magical end to the evening!

The very best of the Cotswolds*

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Getting to visit the Cotswolds last month was a bit of a dream. I’d been hankering after a visit after a couple of family friends had headed down, and hadn’t stopped talking about it. Located an easy two hours away from the centre of London, it’s a decently easy commute from the city, and it’s seriously worlds away.

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Bruern Cottage’s Cope residence was our base, and honestly, it couldn’t have been lovelier. A one bedroom cottage, with a log fireplace, and the most sublimely comfortable bed you can imagine, it was the coziest spot to spend an evening. Like all of the Bruern properties, the decoration of Cope was perfection – comfy sofas in front of the fire, led to a dining room big enough to host a dinner party. The use of antique furniture and lithographs from nearby Bruern Abby lent a dash of local history and elegance. The kitchen was equipped with all mod cons, and it was so much fun to be able to potter about, without feeling like we were stepping on anyone’s toes. Bruern have cottages which sleep up to 10 people, so if you’re planning a family getaway sometime soon, you know where to go!

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Ok, so not technically in the Cotswolds was The Fat Fox Inn in Watlington. Home of perhaps the best English Sunday Roast you can imagine, it is an absolutely picture-perfect pub and inn. Driving through the Oxfordshire countryside on a sunny afternoon was an absolute joy, and we were met by the friendliest of landlords and chefs you could wish for!

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Exposed beams, and mix and match chairs added to the sense of comfortable warmth, and it was the perfect spot to while away an afternoon. Only about an hour outside of London, if you’re looking for somewhere to head to on weekends, this is it. The menu is entirely seasonal, and makes use of the bountiful countryside, meaning all produce is local, sustainable and entirely delicious!

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Heading back into the Cotswolds, we couldn’t resist popping into The Maytime Inn. Dating back to the 17th century, I fell in love with the sandy-coloured stone and the promise of over 4o gins to choose from. We enjoyed a sunny hour in their famous beer garden, and made friends with resident pub-dog Alfie.

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Considering that Alice in Wonderland is one of my favourite books from childhood, I couldn’t not make a bit of a pilgrimage to The Perch in Oxford. Not only is it an absolutely picture-perfect inn (one of England’s oldest!) but it was the venue for Lewis Carroll’s very first public reading of the book!

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There are few spots surrounding The Perch which pop up in Wonderland, so after a bit of a stroll around town, we retired indoors to sample their lunch menu. Their menu is, as you might expect, locally sourced and filled with seasonal produce. We opted for River Fowey Mussels which were plump and sweet, as well as Braised Venison Suet Pie which was basically the dreamiest take on autumnal comfort food you can imagine.

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I had heard about The Ragged Cot from a few people, so we headed over for a bit of an afternoon pick-me-up before heading back up north. Their shed was the perfect spot to enjoy a light lunch, and I just adored the cute, eclectic decor, and the food was just a delight!

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We had also heard some seriously good things about The White House located in nearby Bladon. An absolutely adorable pub, with overflowing window flowers, we opted for a hearty supper. The owners took over in 2014, and since then, they have put their heart and soul into turning it into on of the Cotswolds’ best loved gems. The food was delicious – home-cooked and freshly prepared, the fish flaked beautifully, whilst dessert was an icy dream!

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The last place we popped into was The Fox Inn in Barrington. This was the absolute definition of old-school charm. Taking our seats at a scrubbed oak table, we fell in love with the exposed stone walls and open fireplace.

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The Inn was only a couple of minutes from Bruern, and we enjoyed hearty portions of homemade Cotswolds Shepherd’s Pie. Piles of creamy mashed potato was layered with rich, succulent lamb, creating a dish which was absolutely perfect for beating the autumn chill! The menu is filled with dishes that your granny would make, but a bit better. (although don’t tell her that!)

I was so surprised to see that there were so many places to go in the Cotswolds, and I’m already planning a return jaunt!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Urban Fruit Coconut Chips*

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If you’re anything like me, I always find myself trying to eat mindfully at this time of year. It’s probably got something to do with knowing Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming up, both filled with the most delicious offerings, and trying to offset the damage somewhat. I’ve swapped lunchtime sandwiches for sushi and I’m drinking at least one green juice a day, but until now, it’s been hard to find an alternative to a sneaky bag of crisps. Sometimes you just need a little crunch. So, when Urban Fruit sent over their Coconut Chips, I was seriously intrigued. Triple toasted, the coconut chips are absolutely delicious. If I’m in the mood for something savoury, I’ve been grabbing a bag of the Siracha Chilli Chips which are wonderfully spicy. The coconut flavour is subtle enough to tame the heat a little, giving an almost Thai curry effect. The Straight Up Coconut Chips are an absolute godsend when you just need a little nicety. Not overly sweet, but seriously flavourful, they’re a perfect afternoon pick-me-up.

A Night at Netherstowe House*

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After the next we spent in Newcastle, it was time for us to meander further south. Our final destination was the Cotswolds, but we felt it might be a bit rushed, barrelling down the M6 in a day, so we decided a stop off was necessary.Our base for the evening was Netherstowe House, a cosy spot in Staffordshire.

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The building itself is just breathtaking. A redbrick former mill house, the ivy covered walls were just beautiful, and such a welcome stop from the motorway! If you are something of a commuter, this is an absolute gem of a pitstop!

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We were shown to the Johnson room, which is classed as a Deluxe Room. Absolutely huge in size, there was ample room to stretch out, unpack a little, and generally unwind.

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The whole hotel is decorated in a cute, slightly eclectic style which falls somewhere between Laura Ashley and the Orient Express. The nods to exotic travel were so pretty, and the room was decorated with a surprising amount of antiques. As something of an art history nerd, I found this absolutely delightful, and it made the room feel so cosy!

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Kitted out with everything you could need to whittle away a few hours (including a soaking tub, and homemade cookies), we figured it was time to head downstairs and have supper.

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The Netherstowe House Dining Room was absolutely beautiful. Full of stunning original features, it was shimmering with candle light. I didn’t want to disturb the other diners by flashing a camera around, but it was really beautiful.

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We started off the evening with some freshly baked bread with butter and Maldon salt. Still warm from the oven, it was just the thing to get our mouths watering.

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After pondering the menu for a bit, we both ended up ordering the same dishes, they just sounded too good not to have, and whilst we waited we were surprised with the cutest amouse bouche. The tiniest cauliflower pakora you’ve ever seen was delicately balanced on a shot of satiny smooth cauliflower veloute. Despite it’s delicate size, it was packed with flavour – a balance of cumin and spice was the perfect winter warmer!

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We started our dinner with White Parmesan and Onion Soup (£6) which, although perhaps not the most photogenic dish in the world was a comfortingly savoury start to the meal. Absolutely filled with onion, and topped with a parmesan crisp, it was absolutely delicious!

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Between course we opted to try a sorbet to cleanse our palettes. A scoop of lemon (£4) and raspberry (£4) between us was an absolute delight. Sharp, sweet and perfectly tart, it was such a contrast from the soup.

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The main event was the 7oz Fillet Steak (£22) which came served with hand cut chips, a peppery salad and bernaise sauce. The steak was cooked medium-rare, and was wonderfully succulent, with a rich flavour and a melt-in-the-mouth consistency. It paired so well with the rich bernaise sauce and piping hot chips.

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After enjoying our meal, we positively rolled upstairs, and headed straight to bed. We slept so soundly we completely missed breakfast, but if you’re more of a morning person than I am, you can order a fully cooked meal, or choose from a Continental selection.

A night at Netherstowe House on a DB&B basis costs £195. Thank you to Netherstowe House for hosting us.

 

 

Dinner at Jesmond Dene House Hotel*

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I’m not sure about you, but when I’m on holiday, I really love to treat myself to a couple of really incredible meals. It’s such an indulgence, but honestly, sitting back, enjoying wonderful company and sampling delicious food simply cannot be beaten! I had heard wonderful things about the restaurant at Jesmond Dene House. It’s been awarded three AA Rosettes, and reviews are entirely positive, so to say we entered the dining room with high hopes is an understatement.

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The dining room itself is housed in the hotel’s former music room, and is decorated in warm tones, designed to draw the eye upwards, towards the most beautiful plasterwork. After admiring the room, and perusing the menu, we were treated to a selection of freshly baked, still warm from the oven breads. From a choice of three we opted for a slice of traditional sourdough and a sun-dried tomato brioche roll. There was a selection of butters too, and I went for the seaweed option. It’s not something I’d ever tried before, but it was absolutely delicious. Delicately flavoured, and deliciously savoury, it was the perfect way to start off the meal.

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I couldn’t resist the Chicken Liver Parfait which was served with Onion Marmalade and Toasted Brioche (£8.50). The parfait was an absolute delight – despite having a deep, rich flavour, it was whisper-light and satiny smooth. Piled on top of the freshly baked brioche toast, it was a study in comfort, and the onion marmalade was perfect for cutting through the richness. The salad which was served alongside was fresh and peppery, lending the dish another layer of complexity.

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We also couldn’t resist the Hot Smoked Salmon (£10) which was equally delicious. A mix of smoked salmon and salmon mouse, it was a such a wonderfully flavourful dish. The smoked salmon was rich in taste, with a perfect, firm texture. The mousse was flavoured with horseradish (one of my favourite flavours) which, along with the generous slices of gherkin cut through the richness of the dish. We both agreed that our expectations had already been exceeded, and they were the perfect start to the evening.

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Somewhat unusually, we both went for the same main course. You couldn’t not really. The Himalayan Salt Aged Cote de Boeuf (£35) was just too perfect not to try. Almost prehistoric in proportion, it was exactly what I was in the mood for! Served with Cafe de Paris butter alongside a garden salad and hand cut chips, it was the just the thing to enjoy on a cold, damp night.

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If you’ve not tried the Cote de Boeuf cut yet, you really must! It’s a rib steak with the bone still attached, and is the most perfectly succulent, flavourful steak you can imagine. Cooked medium rare, it was just the most wonderful supper. Crowned with a slab of mustardy Cafe de Paris butter, I could have feasted on this all evening.

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Honestly, this has to have been one of the best steaks I’ve had, probably ever. It was so tender and juicy, and the flavour was just out of this world! It was such a treat to be able to sit and really savour it.

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Along with a delicate garden salad (complete with edible petals) the Cote de Boeuf was served alongside a bowl of what could easily be the world’s most perfect hand cut chips. Served piping hot with a light sprinkling of sea salt. They were so crisp, with fluffy insides, they were an absolute joy!

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We couldn’t resist ordering a couple of desserts, and, the first to arrive was the absolutely gorgeous Lemon Meringue Pie (£8.50). It was a study in delicious contrasts – rich, buttery pastry held the most delightful sharp lemon curd. This was crowned with the most perfect swirl of meringue. Served with a refreshing quenelle of raspberry sorbet, it was a perfect way to end the meal.

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I had plumped for something a little more dramatic – the dark chocolate sphere (£10.50). I’d seen similar puddings plastered all over Instagram, and honestly, I couldn’t resist. Served a couple of beats behind the lemon meringue tart, I was a little baffled when a parade of waiters arrived table-side brandishing the gold-foiled sphere and a jug full of hot chocolate sauce.

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As the sauce was poured over the sphere, the magic really happened – the crisp outer shell simply cracked in two, revealing home made caramel ice-cream sitting on a disc of buttery shortbread. This was resting on a hunk of the most delicious caramel, as well as crisp salted peanuts.

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It was one of the most delicious and dramatic desserts I’ve ever encountered! It was such a decadent experience, and I’m it was just one surprise after another – I absolutely adored it!

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As you can probably tell, I had an absolute ball, and I have to say thank you so, so much to Jesmond Dene House for inviting me for both dinner and an overnight stay! It was a truly wonderful stay!